In April of 2021, I had the privilege of visiting The Erotic Heritage Museum for the first time. A friend and I were planning a trip to Vegas together and I just happened to come across the museum’s website. Given my passions for art, the erotic, and all things human sexuality, coming to the museum was an absolute no-brainer. I really enjoyed my time walking through all of the exhibits that the museum had to offer.
The Erotic Heritage Museum does a fabulous job at covering some of the basic elements one might learn in a foundational human sexuality course, but it also expands from there into a wider cultural discussion of global sexual expression and eroticism, spanning several different time periods. In order to learn more and then share that knowledge with our Kiss and Tell magazine readers, I reached out to the museum’s executive director, Victoria Hartmann and I asked her 18 questions.
18 Question and Answers Discussing The Erotic Heritage Museum
First, could you please introduce yourself to our readers? (Name, position, pronouns, and how long you have worked with The Erotic Heritage Museum?)
Victoria Hartmann. Executive Director. I started with the Museum in 2009 as a student intern. I completed both my 1st and 2nd doctorate degrees, and in 2014 I was appointed to my current position.
I would like to hear more about the history behind the museum. When was it founded and what sort of happened to spark its creation? Was there a big need for a sexuality-based museum in the area?
The Harry Mohney Erotic Museum, also known as the Erotic Heritage Museum, (the EHM) began as a partnership between Preacher (the Rev. Ted McIllvenna) and a Pornographer (Harry Mohney). Working to build a sex-positive exhibition space, these two men from opposite sides of the cultural spectrum created the largest museum in the world for the preservation of erotic artifacts, fine art, film, education, and cultural events.
Las Vegas seemed like the perfect city for a Museum focused on the preservation of erotic artifacts and art.
What was the biggest challenge when it came to starting the museum and its exhibits? How was this challenge addressed?
Censorship from the city council. At the time, we were required to cover up the nipples of a painted mural. We covered the nipples with pasties, which after they fell off due to age and sun exposure, were never re-applied as no one complained about the cartoon nipples.
What has the public reception of the museum been like? Has that changed at all since the museum’s creation?
Interest in the Museum has increased exponentially since we switched from centering the American sexual revolution to a science-based approach to the preservation of art and artifacts that have their origins in various places around the globe. We are truly global now.
How does the museum decide on which exhibits to showcase and for how long?
Someone makes a suggestion and we decide if it fits the mission of the Museum. Some exhibits stay out permanently, some for a few months.
Could you also share with our readers what some of the permanent exhibitions are like?
They vary. We have historical exhibits with time-relevant artifacts, to conceptual exhibits with fantastical art and animatronics.
Do you have a favorite exhibit that The Erotic Heritage Museum has displayed? If so, why is this exhibit your personal favorite?
The Garden of Earthly Delights. It mixes the original Bosch work with modern retellings of the original piece, and we brought all of those elements to life as a means by which to communicate the Museum’s ethos in a dynamic form.
I noticed on the website that there are venues in the museum that can be rented out, including a wedding chapel and a few theatres. What are some of the events that take place at the museum? Do educators ever host workshops or seminars?
Sexuality lectures mostly, but also poetry readings, paint and sips, and book signings.
Going off the previous question regarding events, are there any regular events that happen during the year? (ex: festivals, movie screenings, etc) Or perhaps events that are somewhat unique to The Erotic Heritage Museum itself?
Yes, both the Puppetry of the Penis Show and the Naked Boys Singing Show. They run 4 and 3 nights a week respectively.
I think it’s really cool that the museum features a wedding chapel. How many weddings happen at the museum each year on average? And how much does it cost to book the wedding chapel space?
Not many, but the space is used for all kinds of events, including student films, mainstream filming, and lectures as well.
When I visited the museum in the spring of 2021, I remember seeing an advertisement for an event called “Puppetry of the Penis.” I was really intrigued by the name. Unfortunately, I did not actually get to see this event. Could you share a little bit more about that event?
It’s a long-running comedy show that started in Australia where two men on stage make origami with their penises.
I also wanted to ask about the politicians’ sexuality exhibit. I believe it is one of the first exhibits guests get to see. It features a detailed history of political sex scandals in U.S. history, including instances where American politicians were accused of engaging in child sexual abuse. What inspired that installation? Have there ever been incidents where guests were very vocal concerning their disagreement with the exhibit?
All of the political exhibits are meant to highlight the hypocrisy between how politicians legislate our bodies and sexuality, and how they express their own in contrast, as an observational and historical exercise. No, we have received no complaints or concerns with the exhibit.
Does the museum ever hire volunteers or interns? If so what do these opportunities look like?
We are a for-profit Museum and are therefore ineligible to hire volunteers or interns.
How many people are usually on the staff? What are some of the unique challenges that the museum’s staff faces when it comes to keeping the museum successfully up and running?
7-9. The dust. Being in the desert, our biggest challenge is the dust.
When is the most popular time of year for museum visitors to stop by? How many guests come to the museum every year?
All year long. It’s very consistent.
Does the museum promote any local queer, BIPOC, or kink organizations?
Our focus is on the preservation of erotic art and artifacts, as well as scientific studies of these items, and of global erotic heritage.
Why are The Erotic Heritage Museum and other similar institutions important?
We mix art and science in a way that makes the exploration of sexuality a comfortable intellectual exploration for our guests.
What does the future of the museum look like?
A potential much bigger, global platform for the advancement of the arts and sciences as they pertain to the preservation of erotic art and artifacts.
I hope you enjoyed this piece and feel compelled to visit the museum in the near future. Visitors are in for an artistic, cultural experience unlike any other.